Children with special needs have called on the government to ensure that their rights are equally respected, especially in schools for them to access education.
Chantal Tuyishime, 16, who recently completed her Senior Three at GS HVP Gatagara in Huye, told The New Times that she endured a great deal of struggles until she joined the special needs school at Gatagara.
Right from primary through secondary school the physically disabled Tuyishime says that teachers as well as students were insensitive to her special needs.
“I remember one incident while we were sitting for district examinations and the invigilators who were well aware of my problem could not allow me extra minutes to finish my paper. It was really sad and I ended up failing that specific exam,” Tuyishime narrated.
“Some school infrastructure are built in a way that do not allow us to freely access all corners of the school and also making it hard to enter classroom especially for someone like me who uses a wheelchair,” she added.
Tuyishime’s sentiments were shared by Pacifique Niyonkuru, 12, from GS Mayange in Bugesera District who said that special arrangements for kids with impairments could go a long way in creative conducive environment for them to thrive.
“Our speed to grasp things is not the same as our able-bodied peers. Some children have hearing and speech impairment but very few schools cater for such special needs, which makes it hard for some of the disabled children to have education,” Niyonkuru said.
Emmanuel Ndayisaba, Executive Secretary of National Council of Persons with Disabilities (NCPD), said that there are about 46 schools countrywide which provide for children with special needs, “but not all of them are functional.”
Ndayisaba said that most of them are private schools which are relatively expensive making it hard for every other kid with special needs to attend.
“We have some of these schools in Huye, Nyanza, Rwamagana and Nyarugenge districts but they are not enough. Our hope is to have at least a school for children with special needs in every district to reduce on the distance one has to make to attend school and keep these children close to their families,” Ndayisaba said.
Speaking at yesterday’s 12th National Children’s Summit in Kigali, Prime Minister Dr Edouard Ngirente said that observing children’s rights is vital in nurturing a responsible community.
The summit, which was held at the Parliamentary Buildings under the theme: “Positive Parenting: Foundation of the Rwanda we want”, brought together about 500 children from across the country.
These include heads of children’s forum committees at the sector level; 30 heads of children’s forum committees at district level and 30 child representatives for children with disabilities at district level.
Others are 12 representatives of children living in refugee camps, 30 children mentors from districts, six mentors of children in refugee camps, members of cabinet, parliamentarians, district mayors, vice mayors in charge of social affairs, and development partners.
The summit sought to highlight positive parenting as the bedrock for the well-being of the Rwandan children into families among others.
“It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that every child’s rights are protected,” Ngirente said, adding that, “rightful upbringing of a child entails protection and promotion of their rights and needs which, in turn, plays a significant role in their growth.”
Dr Claudine Kanyamanza Uwera, the executive secretary of the National Commission for Children, said that that despite the fact that policies have been put in place to protect and promote the rights of children with special needs, there is need for solid follow-up to ensure inclusiveness.
Isaac Munyakazi, the Minister of State for Primary and Secondary Education, acknowledged that, even though a lot has been done in terms of policy composition for children with special needs, there is more to be done to ensure that policies are translated into action for inclusiveness.
Munyakazi noted that new classrooms which are being built take into account the needs for physically impaired children while there are also plans to introduce sign language into the national curriculum.
Espérance Nyirasafari, Gender and Family Promotion minister, told The New Times that addressing this inclusiveness gap is vital in “creating a helpful atmosphere that is free from stigma for physically impaired children to grow into responsible citizens able to provide for themselves.”
The annual children’s summit was concluded with a ‘Walk for Children’s Advocacy’ with children and other participants taking part in the walk from the Parliament to ‘Petit Stade’ in Remera in show of support for a common fight against the irresponsibility of parents towards their children, teenage pregnancies, child labour, school dropout and street children phenomenon, among others.